PhD programs (from pre-application to dissertation)
Considering national security policy but don't have any background in the field? I was there in 2020, and I can help you now
Positioning yourself within the Effective Altruism community
Any advice you'd like on the Free Ideas I have listed
A policy analyst needs three things: no more, and no less.
The ability to gather information. This can take many forms: skill at interviews, at meta-analysis, at machine learning. You need at least one trick up your sleeve, and being able to combine two is useful.
The ability to write. Actually sitting down and producing words is an incredibly rare talent. Making them good is even less common.
An understanding of the world. Get lunch with a trans sex worker and a crypto-billionaire, and call each a friend. Know the structure of your government like the back of your hand. Convert every number into a per-capita GDP-deflated value. Understand how people think and dream. Parse papers for how they're lying to you until it's reflexive. Read history. Poke at your confusions and understand something that other people want to fix.
If you don't have all three, you won't be able to produce original work, you won't be able to explain what you've found, or you will produce original work that is critically wrong in the details. If you are missing one of those three, it's worth thinking about how to improve at it.
It is very important to be able to meet deadlines that you've agreed to (and some of the ones that you haven't). It helps to be friendly and charming.